Volvo Intellegence – The New Machines

A couple of months ago I took my Volvo S80 in for service because the engine light was on.  I always take that as a sign of bad things to come.  For some unknown reason, a couple of sensors relating to my turbo system were not working correctly and had to be replaced.  Well, okay.  The car is a 2002 so there are bound to be parts that need replacing.  So far it’s been a pretty good car that hasn’t needed any major repairs done to it.  Unfortunately, the S80 has about 60 difference sensors that can cause the engine light to go on.

So this week the engine light comes on again.  So, I’m thinking this REALLY is not a good sign.  I take it in and they say if it happens to be the same problem, the parts have a one year warranty and would be replaced. You know it’s NOT going to be the same and how would you ever know if it was.  I rent my replacement vehicle, a new Volvo V70 stationwagon, and leave the car for the day.  It should be noted that over the years, I have probably “test-driven” most of the Volvos available other than the SUV and a newer S80.  I guess they’re too expensive to use as loaners.

Anyway, later in the day the service manager phones me to tell me the news is not too bad. Apparently, the emission system sensor is saying that I have a leak but he doesn’t think that’s the case.  He thinks the software needs an upgrade.

Okay, now I’m in the software business.  I’ve been in the software business for thirty years and I know a little bit about it.  So when a car service repair manager tells me that my car needs a software upgrade, I have to wonder:  How does my car know it’s time for a software upgrade?  I know my car is not hooked up to the Internet like my computer is.  My computer software knows it’s time to upgrade only because there are little “hooks” that will go out to the Internet and take a peek at the software or hardware website which will tell my computer that it’s time to upgrade.  How does my Volvo S80 “sense” that it is time for a software upgrade – especially when it’s not free?  Have they got it hooked up to a monitoring system via satellite or do they have it programmed in the existing software based on mileage, number of months, etc?

It cost me $110 plus tax for the service guy to download the software and install it on my car’s computer system.  Add to that the cost of the replacement vehicle and my bill for the day came to $165 with taxes.  This, of course, does not include my time in having to deal with this problem.

When I went back to get my car and pay my bill, I asked the service manager how the car knew it was time for an upgrade?  He really didn’t have an answer for me.  I guess they don’t want to general public to know –  The New Machines know everything!!!